In flying from Jammu straight to Boniyar and walking 2 kilometers to Sakin Brinyat village in police escort, the chief minister Omar Abdullah has two things in mind to achieve; one, to ‘console’ the bereaved family of Class 12th student Altaf Ahmad Sood and, two, restrict public anger on the brutal killing of Altaf by Central Industrial Forces from getting spilled over across the Kashmir. He, as he tweeted in his blog, did achieve the both: ‘If we’d have responded as effectively in the Tufail incident, perhaps the peace wouldn’t have broken then either. Compare response as well’.
The grief of the family which has been subjected to trauma can never be measured in oceans of tears or in the calories of shock. No prayer, no condolence can retrieve Altaf to his parents. The shell-shocked father’s demeanour tellingly reflected that. A mother waiting to share a morsel of food with her tuition-going son received instead a bullet-perforated body! The entire universe is too narrow to let her shrieks gush out. Her oven of agony keeps on burning.
Whether it was Omar’s "timely" priscription to rescue his government from impending danger he pointed to, or the ‘full-proof security’ bandobast – which ensured the "rationed" air should not be inhaled beyond a limit so that simmering discontent would not find a vent to crack the veneer of normalcy – Kashmir has lost one more blooming youth to the trigger happy ‘security forces’ personnel.
In many ways Altaf’s killing was different from the killings what we have witnessed earlier. It was first time when ‘security’ guards manning NHPC facility tasted (and relished) the blood of Kashmir. And first time when people, holding NHPC responsible for their exploitation, protested near an NHPC project. According to police around 80 to 100 people assembled outside main gate of NHPC project at Boniyar and protested against the erratic power supply and against the NHPC for their failure to provide the catchments of the project uninterrupted power supply.
As the reports suggest NHPC had signed a written agreement with the residents of nearly 20 villages of Boniyar area in 1989 that it would provide free electricity free education and free medical treatment to the local population. Besides, one job would be provided each of the families who provided land for the construction of the 480 MW-Uri-I power project. However, residents of the area say that the NHPC betrayed them and reneged on the promises made.
This is not the case of the Uri project alone. In Kashmir the NHPC have adopted a double standard. It was mandatory for the NHPC, under Corporate Social Responsibility, to take local community developement measures in the areas of health, education, promotion ofsports, employement opportunities and preservation of nature. But nowhere in Kashmir any such initiative was taken by the Corporation.
Residents of the Boniyar area say the NHPC even skipped its committment when in 2005 earthquake it promised that it will adopt 100 small villages. Recently the residents of the Pazalpora and other catchments of the kishen Ganga Power Project (Bandipora), strongly blocked roads in protest against the NHPC. They alleged that toxic wastes of the project has contaminated the water of the river to a dangerous level. The samples collected by the authority confirmed toxic contamination. That reflects the callous sensitivity of the corporation towards security of the a’am a’admi in Kashmir. NHPC is also responsible for massive environmental degradation. Tunnels comstructed by the NHPC also leads to land erosion. The colonial exploitative mentality of the National Hydro Power Corporation is all manifestly obvious.
Until now the CISF was out of the loop. Now, it too has started demonestrating its "mesculanity". In the words of CPI leader and MLA M Y Tarigami: ‘there is competition amongst various forces agencies in showering bullets on Kashmiri youth, the CISF is the latest addition in the race’. People and political parties of different persuations have strongly condemned the Boniyar killing. Kashmir observed one day strike to protest the unprovoked firing on people. The call was given by apolitical Kashmir Economic Alliance. The common dominator of the fury was that now for demanding basic amenities like power the people are receiving bullets. The teenaged Altaf should have been studying at this time but lies burried for his only sin of raising voice against deprivation and exploitation.
With Civil Society on the vanguard in starting a strong campaign against Shylock approach of the NHPC, the anger of the people is at its highest. It is time Delhi revisits its policy and does justice to Kashmir.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has himself called the Killing of Altaf a ‘murder’. He ensured the bereaved family that ‘his government would spare no effort in handing over severe punishment to the culprits. Justice would be done… even if we have to move any court or take recourse to any law…’ Alas! this is not the first time such kind of assurances are delivered. But till today none has materialised into action. Not that we cast doubt on CM’s sincerity, he too would have liked the guilty murderous cops dealt sternly and made an example for others. But with AFSPA reigning supreme his government is simply helpless. From Bomai to Shopian, to Machil and Tufail Matoo and such other cases his ‘speedy justice’ idiom looks a joke.